'Desire in August'

Solo Show in Vadhera Gallery, New Delhi.

We laugh at ourselves as we cannot cry

- Suneet Chopra

The paintings and mixed media works by Ravikumar Kashi are very much the art of the age of consumerism: Seductive and seduced. Every subversive statement hides under the coverlet of glamour. It is tongue-in-cheek art that speaks the language its phrases and sentences decry.

This art is not new. It traces its lineage back to Andy Warhol, bows its head to the seductive images of the consumer culture from Shahrukh Khan in "" Fun"" , to colours of the national flag in ""Indian"" and the ubiquitous Pepsi bottle in ""Book of Alphabets P for Pepsi"", and then recoils upon it with a sense of rejection, as in ""Get Ahead"" where we see the image of a car gone ahead confronted with a traffic jam of similar cars, questioning the imperative. In the same way, the long rope of the rat race in "" Hit"" ends up with the back of one's head being targeted by the telescopic lens of a gun .

It reminds us we live in an age of sharp contradictions. We have the capacity to be free of every kind of want by advances in science and industry, but are consistently being enslaved by it in its most crass form of substandard mass produced consumer goods, from tacky underwear to cheap perfume.

In this artist's work we see ourselves as masters enslaved by their hunger. Nothing is left in our private domain any more, and the rat on the run in the rat race, for all his huffing and puffing, is as dead as the chicken on the skewer. It unnerves us.

What is fast, like the foot with running shoes on, as in ""Breathless"" , is defeated by the tortoise crawling under its shell not by its steady determination, as in the classical fable of the hare and the tortoise; but by the rules of the game that parade below the runner as forbidding road signs. Times have changed. Virtues like thrift, honesty, grit have become vices. And vices are the new virtues, as we can see in ""Yesterday once Again"" ""book of Alphabets G for Gun,"" or ""just Do It, in which even love becomes so possessive as to take on the character of an all consuming passion that envisages even murder. The hunger of the consumer society is that of the cannibal. This is the art of an age out of tune with humanity and with itself. Its language is the language of hyperbole and its images have become so trite with usage that they have to be propped up by neon lights, imperatives and bold colours. And behind it all, the timidity of the couple in ""What Will People Think""? where the command of 'Love' and 'kiss' is met with the TV fig leaf of a formal mask that censors the lips of the kissing couple. You can see what is going on, but you are not meant to admit it to yourself. The artist reminds us of how powerless we have become in the face of multinationals and monopolies controlling our most fundamental urges and expressions and diverting them to their own ends. We are afraid to awaken in us our own sense of being. But he uses the language of our enslavement not to strip us of our false sense of well being, almost in the same way as when nineteenth century forbears of our national movement claimed they were challenging only ""un British"" rule in India. The cry for independence came a good fifty years later.

This art that is being produced at the height of the development of the consumer society no longer resounds with the clarion call of artists like Picasso, who made the helpless horse of the picador, with its vocal cords slashed, centerpiece of his 'Guernica, making the victim a hero, just as Fukazawa painted castrated oxen in the same way, extolling their helpless grit. Picasso was condemning the fascist attack on the Basque village of Guernica while Fukazawa condemned the fascist occupation of Manchuria by Germany. At times when it seemed almost impossible, they were telling us that ""the meek shall inherit the world."" And also, that we should side with them.

Today things are different. Both the meek and the strong are targeted by unrelenting market forces driven by the sound of the till. Even their dreams and emotions have a price that is exacted by behemoths out of the control of those who drive them. So what do we turn to? We turn to the writing on the wall, to graffiti, to footsteps and traces, the raw material of the hope that we can recover our last humanity by cutting through the mass of motivated chimera and grasp the truth of texture, colour, form and volume to use as the building blocks of an art of liberation that is found to emerge out of the work of an art of subversion. The success of Ravi Kumar Kashi's work is that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and not get bogged down in either subterfuge or despair. When everything else fails matter charged with the human spirit succeeds.

'Desire in August'

Solo Show in Vadhera Gallery, New Delhi.

Desire in August

- Ravikumar Kashi

I want to name the show as ‘desire in August’ . I will come to the reason for the title a little later.The works in this set are triggered from watching the media / advertisements closely.

I have made hundreds of clippings from magazines, newspapers and promotional catalogues. Each painting is triggered by a powerful media image and then associations are built, other image gets connected to it. All the images including photographic images, colour saturation, graphics, the font style and the tone of the text as well as the overall sleek appeal are generated from either print or electronic media.

As if I am refusing to see directly, not a single image has been either drawn or generated or sourced directly from what I see around me. Everything is filtered through a secondary source resulting in the construction of a secondary reality. I suppose one can also think of me as a visual scavenger.

Something curious happens in this filtration process. Media projects objects, people and experiences with a certain ‘tinge’. This ‘tinge’ is carried over to my work because of my scavenging.

Media/ads creates desire/want where there is little or none; it plays on the psychological state of the receiver. It associates images, people and ideas in a way that is not always logical. All the activities –Love, Kill, Eat, Sleep, Run, and Empty – are coloured. It wants you to eat certain things, sleep on a certain brand of bed, look like a certain hero; killing of course has become a spectacle thanks to action movies. The words used in the work are activity based, suggesting a certain attitude to life.

In the works there are references to computer print outs, state enforced censor in the electronic media by digital distortion (in the work ‘what will people think’ – kissing is censored), digital noise (in the work ‘win’ - girl with an apple), pop patriotism witnessed during cricket matches by painting the face with colours of the Indian flag (but apparently this loyalty can be transferred as people were also painting their faces with Brazilian flag colours during the recent foot ball match), business pages- their emphasis on competitive spirit, growth and success. Get there - A.S.A.P. If I am sourcing from the media, playing along with it where is the contest – the space for reflection and stating the anti thesis There are images in each work, which would be considered as contradictory to the main thrust of the work. Like the rocking horse in the work ‘Run’, now rocking is a perfect antithesis of movement per se’, as it is stationary and only simulates movement. Or the title ‘What will people think’ - makes the whole activity apologetic, changing the tone. In the work, ‘Sweet Dreams’ waking is reminded with an open eye, mosquito coil. It is also about overstating, too sweet to bear so that it starts affecting in the reverse.

The whole format is like watching a TV. While scanning through the channels we come across various images, incidents, but each channel is seen isolation; Advertisement for a tooth gel as separate from the image of terrorist killings, which one saw a moment ago, in the news/ documentary channel. When this flow is seen as a continuous stream of images, the contradictions, which arise, are mind-boggling. Even while reading the newspaper or a magazine the left half ad about a fashion suiting would be juxtaposed against a farmers suicide or drought. But we don’t connect them. The format of a diptych (in paintings like ‘Indian’, ‘Portrait of an Artist’) has this suggestion of opening a page. There are also references to the reinforcing by repetition in the media, over stating and the language of appealing.

I make notes in a diary, as and when the idea occurs, with small drawings and text as to how a particular painting can shape up. Later when the actual painting starts changes are made, new associations creep in and the painting gains a new twist.

And finally, is desire different in July than in August or April. It is not, but it can be made to feel so if the media thinks so. Any month can become a special month with lots of discount shopping ops and packages, though the earlier month was also special because there were some other goodies on the block. Keep wanting – that’s the word. Embers of the desire have to be kept glowing, whether it is January or February. Hence, the title ‘desire in August’